Did you get scared watching The Exorcist? Ever wondered just how much truth was in it and if real exorcism stories actually existed? Well, prepare for another scare as we delve into this spooky topic.
Of course you’ve read at length about the possession of Janet Hodgson. You know that it’s not clear whether the story was true or a hoax. But there have been many real exorcism stories recorded throughout history, long before the likes of the Warrens and movies like The Conjuring 2.
Real Exorcism Stories
Real exorcism stories are eerie in that the demons who supposedly afflicted people were not discriminating. Young, old, man, woman – it doesn’t matter who the person is. Everyone, it would seem, is susceptible to possession.
These stories are also disturbing because sometimes mental illness or physical disorders were mistaken for demonic possession. Theories suggest that Janet Hodgson had a mental illness, but she’s certainly not the first.
Here are a few accounts of real exorcisms which have been performed throughout history.
Anneliese Michel was born in 1952 West Germany, less than a decade after the Second World War. The young girl had a history of mental illness; she had been treated for her illnesses but medical advancements at the time were ineffective. In addition to mental illness, Michel suffered from epilepsy.
Anneliese Michel’s disorders were treated with medication, but her symptoms persisted. Her parents began to suspect that she was a victim of demonic possession, and appealed to the Catholic church. Initially, the Church rejected the Michel family, but ultimately a priest gave in. Annaliese had begun to speak of demons, and she heard voices.
The exorcisms – nearly 70 of the rites – were performed between 1975 and 1976. During this time, her parents stopped consulting with doctors; Annaliese was taken off her medications and, after 10 months of rituals, Annaliese herself stopped eating and drinking.
Most haunting about the real exorcism stories told of Annaliese are words from the girl, herself. She knew she was not possessed, and would speak to her priest, Ernst Alt.
I want to suffer for other people…but this is so cruel
Michele also spoke of dying to atone for others’ sins. And die she did. On July 1, 1976, Annaliese Michel died in her home. The cause of death was starvation and severe dehydration. The girl weighed 68 pounds, and both her knees were broken as a result of kneeling to the ground (genuflections).
Her parents were charged with negligent homicide, but were not convicted on account that they had “suffered enough.”
Anna Ecklund was born in the Midwestern United States in 1882. She was raised Catholic. By all accounts, Anna Ecklund had a normal childhood.
As she grew older, however, Anna Ecklund became another of the recorded real exorcism stories; her adolescence was far from normal. As Exklund approached her teenage years, she began to exhibit a severe loathing for all objects which carried religious significance.
Anna Ecklund began to engage in “unspeakable sexual acts.” The nature of those acts isn’t exactly clear, as this wasn’t properly documented. Similarly, Ecklund’s “disturbed thoughts” can’t be elaborated on. However, the girl refused to enter churches, and displayed signs of an apparent demonic possession.
Anna Ecklund was supposedly possessed by the demons of her father, her aunt, and Judas Iscariot. Interestingly, her father was alive at the time, and it’s he and Ecklund’s aunt who are now thought to be a direct cause of this “possession.”
Jacob Ecklund had reportedly attempted to begin an incestuous relationship with his daughter. This began in her early teens, and it’s then that the signs of possession first began. By the time the girl was 26 years old, she was said to have been fully possessed.
Her aunt and father didn’t help matters, either. The two would curse the girl’s food with herbs, and pray to the Devil to “repossess” the girl. Anna Ecklund’s first exorcism was performed in 1912. Through the curses of her aunt and father, it wasn’t until 1928 that Anna Ecklund’s possession had ended. Her aunt and father were dead by that time.
Clara Germana Cele
Clara Germana Cele is another of the real exorcism stories recorded in history books. Cele was a 16 year old girl living in an orphanage in natal, South Africa. She had been baptized as an infant, though she was orphaned, and she lived at St. Michael’s Mission, where she was looked after by nuns.
When she was 16, Clara Germana Cele is said to have made a pact with Satan. It was then that she began to exhibit signs of possession. Cele spoke languages of which she had no knowledge, and she demonstrated clairvoyance. knew secrets about people she’d never been in contact before.
She, like Anna Ecklund, started to show a strong aversion to all things “holy” or religious. She’d refuse to enter churches, claiming that there was an unseen force in her way. Clara Germana Cele was said to have levitated, and had an almost inhuman strength at times.
Clara Germana Cele, unlike our other real exorcism stories, was only required to undergo one exorcism. Following a ritual by Reverend Mansueti and her confessor, Reverend Erasmus, Clara Germana Cele was reportedly released from her possession. She never again exhibited any signs of a demonic presence.
Is Exorcism Real?
As you can see, there are some cases throughout history which could cause some to believe that exorcism is real. In the case of, for example, Annaliese Michel, sometimes psychological and physical afflictions are mistaken for demonic ones.
Today, exorcism is still very real. Fortunately, our medical advancements have allowed us the ability to recognize the symptoms of mental illness and even epilepsy. But as one Anglican priest, Eddie Gibbs, says, “it’s real to the person.”
Whether the victims in these real exorcism stories were truly afflicted or not is unknown. But exorcism is a rite that’s still performed today, and among other effects it offers a calming result.
So is demonic possession real? It’s impossible to say whether unseen forces like demons exist. But is exorcism real? Yes. And it’s a rite that’s performed even in our modern times.